After the tragic death of their young daughter, Mark and Mary Hughes (Josh Close and Selma Blair) decide to take their nine year-old son Brendon (Quinn Lord) to the family cottage in the woods for a little vacation. The couple not only sees this as an opportunity to escape their daily routine, but also as a chance to possibly save their marriage. This is easier said than done as the couple finds themselves drifting further and further apart each day. Their quiet vacation is interrupted by the early morning emergence of their neighbours, Bobby (Cloud Atlas’ James D’Arcy) and Jane (Rachel Miner) and their son Jared (Alex Ferris).
While slightly annoyed by the timing of their appearance, Mark sees the couple’s act of dropping off firewood as nothing more than a neighbourly gesture. When Jane is persistent about making a salad for them, Mark has no choice but to reluctantly invite them to dinner later that night. Despite their seemingly well meaning intensions, the socially awkward Bobby and Jane begin to get more intrusive with each question they ask. The dinner takes a turn towards the dark side when Jared pulls a knife on Brendon after an argument occurs while playing video games upstairs.
It is from this point on that Jeremy Power Regimbal’s directorial debut, In Their Skin, dives head first into the home invasion genre. After being cast out of Mark and Mary’s home, Bobby, Jane and Jared begin terrorizing the family. The tires on Mark’s car are slashed, the family dog is shot, and the phone lines are cut. As Bobby’s family invades Mark’s cottage, it is clear that their motives are not just financially driven, Bobby and Jane actually want to become Mark and Mary in every sense of the word.
Originally titled Replicas, In Their Skin is a film that will surely draw comparisons to several other home invasion films, most notably Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. The major difference though is that Regimbal does not drift into the realm of darkness the way Haneke would. Just as In Their Skin hits its darkest moment, Regimbal is careful not to cross the line despite the audience wishing he would. This leads to one of the biggest flaws with the film. By not committing to the dark depths the film builds up to, the last act feels sloppy. The logic in which all the characters have functioned up to that point seems to go out the window in order to conveniently move the plot forward. It as is if Regimbal is struggling to figure out how to use the home invasion as the catalyst for change in Mark and Mary’s relationship.
Though the ending of the film is messy and a bit infuriating, In Their Skin fortunately has several great things working in its favour. Regimbal does a great job of not only slowly building the tension in the film, but sustaining it as well. Credit must also be given to James D’Arcy and Rachel Miner who are wonderful as the off-kiltered Bobby and Jane. D’Arcy in particular steals several scenes with his magnetic blend of creepiness and comedy. One minute Bobby is evoking laughs from the audience as he not so subtly tries to mimic Mark’s tone and mannerisms, and the next he is sending chills up your spine as his character’s true nature reveals itself.
When all is said and done, In Their Skin ended up being a rather pleasant surprise. Events in the film may unfold in a straightforward manner, but the strong performances by James D’ Arcy and the entire cast helps to sustain your interest far more than you initially think it would. Jeremy Power Regimba’s directorial debut is a tense film that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats. It is just a shame that the last act provides a blemish on an otherwise entertaining film.